Yesterday Jay Z relaunched TIDAL as the first artist owned streaming music service. But the question everyone is asking today is: Will TIDAL become the first bona fide threat to Spotify's ascension or did we just witness some particularly well orchestrated hype?
On paper, TIDAL looks impressive. Who wouldn't want their music service controlled by musicians rather than self-serving record labels and profit-driven venture capitalists?
And think of all of the exclusive content. TIDAL co-owners Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj. Beyonce, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Usher, Daft Punk, deadmau5, J Cole, Jason Aldean, Calvin Harris and Jay Z all delivering music and videos that fans can't find anywhere else!
While yesterday's launch event was long on star power, it was short on details. But what we have learned - from yesterday's launch, media interviews, off the record from industry insiders and after looking around the relaunched service - is that so far at least, TIDAL has some work to do before its lives up to yesterdays 'artist's revolution' hype.
TIDAL's "mission to reestablish the value of music and protect the sustainability of the music industry rooted in creativity and expression," according to the "Declaration" signed yesterday by the 16 stars dubbed "The Avengers of Music." Thus far, however, the music industry re-write appears to only be for the superstars who took the stage alongside Jay Z.
Each artist-partner has reportedly received a 3% stake in the new music service. How or even if TIDAL might be better than Spotify and other competitors for the tens of thousands of other working musicians who increasingly rely on streaming income, remains unanswered.
The appearance that TIDAL will further line the pockets of already rich superstars led to backlash across the web overnight. "That whole #TIDALforALL gathering looked like an announcement for a terrible charity record, with themselves as the charity," tweeted one doubter
Exclusives? What Exclusives?
As for all of the implied exclusive content, I could find very little when looking around TIDAL late yesterday and today. And how much control these artists, most of whom are tied to a variety of restrictive recording and other contracts, have over how and where their content can be released is a question for the lawyers.
Also, don't think for a minute that Apple's Beats and other music services are not angling for their own exclusives. Apple's Jimmy Iovine has already been talking to artists - among TIDAL's launch partners and beyond - about exclusives using Apple's broad reach and deep pockets as weapons.
Higher payments to all artists would be number on on the list, but given the nature of label contracts seems unlikely. But there are other options:
- Follow Pandora and YouTube's lead and offer free analytics
- Go farther than Spotify has gone and integrate outside direct to fan services like BandsInTown, BandPage, Bandcamp, Merchbar, PledgeMusic, Patreon, ReverbNation, Songkick and more
- Allow some form of opt-in direct messaging from artist to fans
- Get serious about artist development - not just with the artists that TIDAL partners have signed to their vanity labels, but with artists of all genres chosen by curators and by fans
- Be a source of funding for new music and ambitious collaborations